More U.S. teens are using smartphones to get to Internet, Pew finds

Donald Conkey checks smartphone while doing homework in Wilmette, Ill.; a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project says teens more than adults are using smartphones as a main means of accessing the Internet
(Martha Irvine / Associated Press)

SAN FRANCISCO -- More American teens than ever are using smartphones as their main onramp to the Internet.

A new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that far more teens are using smartphones to access the Internet than adults.

About 37% of Americans ages 12 to 17 go on to the Internet from a smartphone, up sharply in just one year, according to the 2012 Pew survey.


Twenty-three percent of teens mostly go online using their phones and not a desktop or laptop computer, compared with 15% of adults, the survey found.

Seventy-eight percent of teens have a cellphone, and 47% of those have smartphones.

Translation: 37% of all teens have smartphones, up from 23% in 2011, Pew said.

Pew researcher Mary Madden says the soaring use of smartphones to access the Internet is significant because teens are trendsetters and telegraph how we will all end up using technology from social media to texting.

“Teenagers’ use of technology is often an indicator of future trends in adult usage patterns,” Madden said.

That will make it even tougher for parents to monitor their kids on the Internet. Most parents are able to keep an eye on kids by putting their computer in a shared place in the home, Madden said. Ninety-three percent of teens have a computer or have access to one at home.

Now that teens have mini computers in their pockets with direct access to the Internet and applications, parents probably will have to resort to technical means to make sure kids stay safe online, she said.

About three in four teens say they access the Internet on mobile devices at least occasionally.

“There are big implications here,” Madden said.

Teens in lower-income households with less education are a bit less likely to use the Internet, whether at home or on the go.

But 30% of teens in households earning less than $30,000 a year mostly access the Internet using mobile phones. The percentage is higher than for teens in households earning more than $50,000.


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